MORE than 100 residents turned out to celebrate a local woodland area which could be razed to make way for an extensive garden village.

The Skerningham Woodland Action Group (SWAG) and Darlington Friends of the Earth (DFoE) hosted an afternoon of speeches and walks to highlight the value of the farmland and woodland surrounding the village of Skerningham, and to create awareness of the proposals in the Darlington Local Plan.

The area is threatened by a proposed 4,500 home garden village and golf course that would require vast swathes of trees to be cut down in the Skerningham Community Woodland.

Protesters say the development would "decimate wildlife and irreversibly damage the recreational provision to the north of the town", commonly known as ‘the jewel in Darlington’s crown’.

Darlington and Stockton Times: The site of the proposed Skerningham Village development.The site of the proposed Skerningham Village development. (Image: The Northern Echo)

David Clark from SWAG said: "This area was my playground as a child. I want it to be enjoyed by future generations.

"The people of Darlington were never consulted - many locals still haven’t heard and are horrified to learn what is being proposed by our council.

"We have asked that the Skerningham site be removed from the Local Plan as the housing target of 9,840 house for the borough has already been met.

"Hopefully, the council will listen to the concerns of the community.”

Kendra Ullyart from DFoE added: “This area is known for its rare, red listed farmland birds and other wildlife - there will be local extinctions if development goes ahead.

"The council has pledged to plant thousands of new trees in an attempt to tackle climate chaos, but the benefit of those trees will be negated if more mature trees are cut down.

"In the current climate emergency, stricter planning laws are vital to protect precious countryside from being lost - we need to get serious about the dual threat of a climate and ecological emergency.

"None of the proposed houses are built in a sustainable way and will require retrofitting in a decade. We have to find ways forward where the natural world does not come last."

A Government Inspector has called for further discussions on the fate of the area at the beginning of September.